After weeks of speculation, Erik Lamela is set to seal his move to Spurs from Roma in a massive €30 million deal.
The Argentinean is the sixth player to arrive this summer, but what will he bring to White Hart Lane?
Erik Lamela the dribbler
First and foremost, Erik Lamela is happiest with the ball at his feet.
The Argentinean is quick and has a real burst of pace that can take him away from defenders, especially with the ball under his spell. Roma often used a 4-3-3 formation and here he cuts inside with his dribble as he looks to get on to his favoured left foot, as we can see against Palermo.
However, after Roma changed coach last season, they also played with either three at the back or in a 4-2-3-1, using him as more of a traditional winger. In this case, Lamela is able to play with width and take on his full back in the box, as we can see from Roma’s end of season clash with Napoli.
Only two players attempted more dribbles than Erik Lamela in Serie A last season, Jonathan Biabiany and Juan Guillermo Cuadrado.
Erik Lamela as a wide forward
When Erik Lamela plays on the right as a wide forward, Roma are very quick to move the ball out to him from the centre of the pitch. This allows him to receive possession before the defence is set, letting him use his ability to dribble with the ball.
The length of passing lines out to him from the centre of the pitch show how Roma moved the ball, often over distance, to get it to him in on it in space.
From here, Lamela is able to cut inside on to his favoured left foot.
Then fire shots across the goal towards the corner.
When play is over on the other flank, he is also able to ghost in from his position on the right and score tap-ins at the far post. This is highlighted by the yellow line in his passes received in the Palermo match diagram above. Something that will be of benefit given our tactics to play low crosses and cut backs across the penalty area this season.
Cutting inside from the right not only allows Lamela to fire shots at goal. He is also capable of sliding in through balls for a runner behind the defence.
Here Lamela picks up the ball on the right, before travelling infield and then picking out a through ball to Mattia Destro to run in-behind and score.
These through passes are something that Andre Villas-Boas is encouraging from our side this season. In the piece on “How Roberto Soldado will change Spurs” I looked at his ability to run in on through balls and linking up with Lamela should benefit the Spanish striker.
Erik Lamela crossing
Erik Lamela is not a big crosser of the ball. Instead, he prefers to play shorter, low-driven passes and cutbacks.
For Roma last season, Lamela only attempted 59 crosses and completed a mere 12 (20%), but much of his chance creation comes from shorter passes and squared balls.
A typical Lamela ball in to the box can often look like this one to Marquinho who spins and shoots in to the corner of the net.
As we’ve seen often already this season, especially in Dinamo Tbilisi 0 Spurs 5, Andre Villas-Boas is looking for our wide players to generate shorter crossing distances.
This is done through passes played to a runner in-behind the opposition full backs. This then shortens the distance of crosses, which are either played in low or guided to their target through short, chipped passes. Erik Lamela should fit right in.
Erik Lamela without the ball
Erik Lamela is not as bad in the defensive phase of the game as many people would make out, as he can actually make a tackle. However, he is just as likely to foul as he is to come away with the ball.
Where the Argentinean actually brings something to the side is in picking up loose balls and defensive miscues.
Roma often pressure their opponents in the defensive phase, but whilst in possession, they attempt to get numbers in the box. This can lead to defensive miscues and errant passes from the sheer volume of attacking traffic.
A good example of this was against Genoa. Roma had flooded the box with four players, which saw an error from centre back Michelle Canini. Lamela picked up the ball as the defender failed to control it and curled a left foot shot in to the corner.
Against Parma, Alessandro Lucarelli plays an errant pass out of defence, only for Lamela to steal the ball and curl it straight back in to the corner.
Defending is not a strong part of Lamela’s game, but his attacking instincts make him a threat to profit from any defensive errors or miscues.
What Erik Lamela will bring to Spurs
After spending a lot of time on the right for Roma, Erik Lamela should fill this role for Spurs this season. However, don’t be surprised to see him play off the central striker as a direct-dribbling number ten.
Above all, the Argentinean is excellent with the ball at his feet. With his ability to dart past defenders before shooting or sliding in a pass, he will greatly benefit the team.
The wide positions are where a lot of the creativity and goals will be coming from this season. With Nacer Chadli, Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend and now Erik Lamela, Andre Villas-Boas has plenty of options in this area.